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Opening Arguments

Bye, bye coal

The latest bulletin from the administration with an all-of-the-above energy policy:


The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of new conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural-gas plant emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a new coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls.

Who needs that pesky Congress that refused to enact cap-and-trade? Forty percent of the country's electricty is produced by coal, and we have more recoverable reserves of it than anyplace on earth. Indiana is the nation's 10th-largest producer of coal. Don't worry, though. We're being sacrificed to the greater good of ending global warming.


Harl Delos
Tue, 03/27/2012 - 11:42am

A ton of bituminou coal produces 26 million BTUs of heat, and 2.86 tons of CO2.  There are 3,340,000 BTUs in a MWH of electricity. That means that ideally, there has to 735 pounds of CO2 produced per ton of coal.

That's hard to achieve, but not impossible. 

There are a couple of companies now offering mini-nukes.  The idea is that they are assembled in a factory, delivered by rail, buried in a substation, and when they need to be refueled in ten or twenty years, the whole shebang is dug up and shipped back to the factory, and replaced with a new mini-nuke.  They don't use water for coolant, and if the cooling system fails, it's not a problem, the mini-muke simply stops generating electricity.

Nukes don't ramp up and down quickly, so you need something else as well, but they are nice for providing baseline needs, and the distributed nature of the mini-nukes reduces demand on the main power grid.  If I were running AEP or an REMC, I'd sure want to install a mininuke everywhere I had a substation, and stop building so many huge power stations.  A horrible percentage of the power being generated goes to line losses in distributing it!

And if I were a big coal company, I'd be working on figuring how to distribute a synthetic gasoline.  Up in Michigan, they drill wells for brine, in order to produce bromine and sodium.  Do you suppose there's a way to drill a hole, and extract coal as a fuel slurry?  It'd sure be nice to eliminate strip minimg and the dangers of hard rock mining!

Tue, 03/27/2012 - 12:21pm

As a West Virginia native, I can tell you people have been working on the slurry idea for decades. So far, nothing. Germany produced liquid fuel from coal during WWII, but it was an ineffecient process made necessary by the war.

Leo is sneering at the idea of global warming, which I presume he rejects. I don't understand the arrogance of laymen who declare the experts mistaken (or lying).

I know Tim has a hypothosis that scientists are lying in order to get a few thousand bucks in grants, apparently overlooking the multi-trillion dollar motive the fossil fuel companies have to lie. Surely you don't buy that, Leo.

William Larsen
Tue, 03/27/2012 - 1:01pm

Mini Nukes produce mini waste.  We have about 20 nuke plants that have requested to close due to lack of spent fuel pool space or they are now getting close to their full core reserve.  What are we going to do with all this nuclear waste?

I know from first hand experience that fuel rods after a few years in the core and ten years cooling in a spent fuel pool become extremely brittel "like glass."  I have no idea why you think these mini nukes are designed to be "refuled."  From the designs I have seen, they are lfet in place.  They bury them in the ground to provide the necessary shielding from radiation.

As for cost, they are cost efficient up in areas where power is needed like the northern Candada, Alaska where power is provided by generators.

The Army built a portable Nuke to be transpored on a railroad car.  that experiement ended in failure killing three people and requiring a lot of clean up. Of course the mini nukes they have on the design board are what they call inherently safe.

After spending time trying to develope waste technology and processes, my two cents is before we allow any type of new nukes out there, we haev an operational depository for dealing with this highly radioactive waste.



Tim Zank
Tue, 03/27/2012 - 2:08pm

Not to sound partisan but, anybody who thinks man made global warming is a threat to us right now or even in the next couple of centuries should not be allowed to operate any kind of heavy machinery as they are not in complete control of their faculties.

Keep farkin' that chicken Dems, and we'll all be reading by candle light, eatin' our peas and ridin' horses again.  

Wed, 03/28/2012 - 9:59am

Tim, that's rich. "Not to sound partisan..." When have you not taken the GOP line?

Tim Zank
Wed, 03/28/2012 - 10:16am

That's called being facetious Littlejohn, ask a non-public school teacher for the definition.

Christopher Swing
Wed, 03/28/2012 - 11:18am

The problem with being facetious: people only believe you're being facetious if they think you're mentally up to it.

Tim Zank
Wed, 03/28/2012 - 11:34am

Thanks Carlito, I think I'm up to it mentally.

Harl Delos
Wed, 03/28/2012 - 12:11pm

The problem, Tim, is that your opinion doesn't count.  If they think you're not up to it, it could theoretically be your shortcoming, or theirs. 

Strongly partisan people tend to view those of different persuasion as being somewhat dim-witted, because they cannot immediately grasp what seems so obvious.  In practice, everytbody is stupid on different subjects, and they are wearing blinders that keep them from seeing that.

"Except, of course, for thee and me, and I'm not so sure about thee"

Christopher Swing
Wed, 03/28/2012 - 12:53pm

The sad thing, Tim, is I actually wasn't saying anything bad about you there. You just assumed it and lashed out at me. Delos is right.